Planning with purpose

The GACTS of life: how we mastered the marketing brief

Ah, the joys of being a marketer: You get to exercise both the logical and creative sides of your brain; you can experiment with different channels and tactics; you have the opportunity to make a direct and measurable business impact.

And the flip side: Being a marketer also means keeping track of lots of moving pieces, coordinating people with different working styles, juggling multiple goals, and managing lengthy feedback processes. On top of everything, there’s the challenge of defining what success actually looks like.

Enter the marketing brief. It’s intended to be the hero of marketing projects, the thing that keeps your cross-functional team of strategists, analysts, writers, designers, and developers aligned from the start. But it can also be perceived as a complicated chore, especially when you have to fill out a 30-question, 5-page document for every project (large or small). Or worse, it feels like unnecessary “work about work” and gets in the way of the results you need.

We firmly believe that planning is the true driver success. If you can master the marketing brief, you’ll have more alignment across teams and projects, a more efficient process from idea to feedback to project completion, and a more empowered team. Here’s how we do it at Asana.

Getting down to the GACTS

“Work about work” is something we constantly try to avoid at Asana. But as the team scales, the need for a marketing brief of some sort—where we can document goals and strategy—is increasingly apparent. So we created something we call GACTS. In the past few years, completing GACTS for everything we create has become second nature to the marketing team at Asana because: a) it’s an acronym so awkward to say it’s actually memorable; and b) it’s actually pretty brief.

Internally, this is how we describe GACTS:

“GACTS are the TL;DR of a project. They summarize the need-to-know facts to everyone working on it. GACTS get everyone on the same page, help ensure that work is high priority and leveraged, and help orient people when giving feedback. Sometimes additional requirements need to be listed, but usually GACTS are all you need to kick off a piece of content, a new design, or a major project.”

To help you write your own GACTS, we break down what the letters mean and pull together some key questions to consider for each. You don’t have to answer every question for each set of GACTS you write (beware the 30-question brief!); these are meant to be suggestions that you can adapt for your team. (Feel free to come up with a better-sounding acronym.)

G is for goals

Before we kick off any marketing project, whether it’s a blog post (such as this one) or a major campaign, we first ask, why is this important? Defining your project goals successfully requires having clear company or business objectives up front, particularly around metrics and the key messages you want to get across.

When writing your goals, consider the following questions:

  • What business goal does this support? What is the content or creative goal?
  • Are there any non-goals?
  • Are there any project risks?
  • Are there any relevant learnings from past projects that can be applied to this project?

For the blog post you’re reading right now, we wrote: “Write a marketing-specific piece of content that drives new web traffic” as the overall goal. We also documented one of the risks: “Write a ‘me too’ article for marketers. Make sure we have a unique perspective.”

Before we kick off any marketing project, whether it’s a blog post (such as this one) or a major campaign, we first ask, why is this important?

A is for audience

Once you’ve documented your goals, the next thing to ask is, who are you targeting? The more specific you can get about your audience, the better your marketing brief (and project results).

When defining your audience, ask yourself:

  • Are we targeting a particular persona, a vertical, or a segment?
  • Are we targeting this audience at a particular stage in the funnel?
  • Is there any relevant data about this audience from previous projects or market research?

For this blog post, we defined our audience as “Marketing team leads who are looking for a better way to manage projects and get alignment on goals.”

C is for channel

After you define your goals and figure out who your target audience is, the next step is to determine where your deliverables will live and how they will be distributed. When documenting your channel strategy, answer the following questions:

  • What is the destination for this deliverable? Will this live at a particular URL?
  • What is the distribution strategy for this deliverable? Are we sharing it on social, sending it in an email, etc.?
  • Are there any channel-specific requirements, e.g. image sizes, word count, etc.?

The channel and distribution strategy for this article reads as follows:

  • Post article on blog.asana.com/workstyle.
  • Distribute via organic and paid social channels.
  • Email this article to subscribers.

T is for time

Whether you’re working on a marketing campaign or a quick, 150-word product description, managing and executing a project effectively requires you to break work down into smaller pieces. This also includes time: determining when something needs to launch and how long it will take to create. As you lay out your project timeline, ask yourself:

  • Are there any hard deadlines? Any soft deadlines?
  • Does this project fall within a particular sprint or quarter?
  • How much time does your team (designers, writers, developers, etc.) need to create the deliverables?
  • What are the major milestones, if any, along the way?
  • When will reviews and feedback happen?

The timeline for this article includes:

  • Publish during Sprint 2.
  • Writing, editing, and review time: four hours.
  • Design time: 1–2 hours for featured image.

S is for stakeholders

Last, but definitely not least, it’s important to define your stakeholders at the start of every project. This includes everyone who will be involved in the project; be sure to clearly define each person’s role. For instance, you might ask:

For this article, the stakeholders are:

  • DRI, Reviewer, and Approver: Jenny
  • Writer: Emily
  • Designer: Anna
  • Blog Staging: Steph

Fact: GACTS are simple, yet flexible

Whether you use the format we’ve come up with, or adapt them to suit your own needs, the wonderful thing about GACTS is that they’re flexible enough to be scaled to marketing projects of all scopes and sizes. You can use them to plan campaigns, design assets, or craft ad copy—with both internal and external collaborators. In fact, we write up GACTS for almost all marketing projects and paste them in the relevant project documents (for us, this is usually a task in the Asana app).

Since GACTS are easy to remember, we also don’t need to refer to a template or look up each question every time. In other words, they pass the whiteboard test; anyone on the team can quickly write them up on a whiteboard during a project kickoff. For larger projects, GACTS are a good place to start for getting people on the same page before you dive into very detailed project specs and requirements. Nobody wants to slog through a 45-slide project plan when there isn’t agreement about the viability of project to begin with.

From a team lead’s perspective, GACTS make it easy to know whether a project is leveraged. By going through the process of writing a marketing brief, it becomes clear whether the goals are worth pursuing, if the target audience makes sense, or whether the time and resources involved are appropriate. And when your project is ready to move forward, contributors can start on their work with a clear idea of the overall goals and measure their success against those goals. Finally, GACTS streamline the feedback process since reviewers can easily reference project details before reviewing deliverables.

From GACTS to results

Perhaps most important, GACTS give us better results on almost every task and project we take on as a marketing team. Since implementing GACTS, team members feel more connected to the bigger picture of what they’re trying to achieve. We’re on the same page about projects much more often. Because project goals are always clear, everyone knows why the work they’re doing matters, and we get quality output from many, many contributors. In (marketing) brief, GACTS are our secret sauce to getting aligned and keeping the marketing team on track and running smoothly.

How does your team format your marketing brief? (Are there any letters missing from GACTS?) Let us know in the comments. We’re always adapting our processes and would love to hear your suggestions!

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